Breast pain is a common symptom among women, typically during periods of hormone fluctuations, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Breast pain refers to the discomfort, tenderness, and soreness in one or both breasts. There are two types of breast pain: cyclical and non-cyclical. Cyclical breast pain is linked to hormonal fluctuations, making it the most common. Non-cyclical is typically due to medical factors. There are several important things to know about breast pain - keep reading to learn more.
As previously stated, the most likely cause of breast pain is the fluctuation of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormone changes cause inflammation of the breast tissue, which can induce pain. Premenopausal women are the most susceptible to breast pain because they experience hormonal changes every month with their period. Nonetheless, women of all ages are vulnerable to breast pain.
Additional causes of breast pain can include lifestyle factors or medical conditions. Lifestyle factors like poor diet, insufficient exercise, and high stress can all lead to breast pain. Medical conditions that may cause breast pain include previous breast surgery, breast trauma, and breast cysts.
Breast pain is rarely a sign of breast cancer
Although breast pain may cause alarm, it is important to know that only around 2 - 7% of women with breast cancer experience breast pain.
Look out for abnormal breast changes
It is important to be diligent with your health and to get regular breast exams, since certain symptoms can be a cause for concern. For example, you should see your doctor if you find any new lumps or masses in your breasts, discharge from your nipples, dimpling on the skin, change in size or shape of breasts, or rashes on your nipples. These are red flags and should be checked out as soon as possible.
Take note of cyclical changes
On the other hand, many normal breast changes are no cause for worry and point to a hormonal shift. These tend to occur cyclically as part of your menstrual period, pregnancy, or menopause process. These normal changes include breast tenderness, swollen breasts, or sharp pain.
Menopause is a major cause
As estrogen levels deplete before and during menopause, breasts may change size, lose firmness, feel softer, or droop. This is a completely normal, albeit frustrating, aspect of aging.
Exercise can influence breast pain
The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a study that showed the correlation between exercise and breast pain. Researchers say that ill-fitting sports bras are a main cause of breast pain during exercise, so it is crucial to get a properly fitted, supportive bra before working out.
Diet can make a difference
There is a strong connection to diet and breast pain. Foods that are high in sodium and saturated fats, as well as alcohol and caffeine, are all breast pain triggers. It is best to avoid excessive intake of these things. An ideal diet includes plenty of protein, dairy, complex carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. Guavas, avocados, and salmon are all healthy foods that have been shown to help ease breast pain.
Breast pain is a frustrating symptom that affects around 70% of women at some point in their lives. It is important to know that breast pain is rarely a sign of breast cancer, but it is crucial to get regular breast exams and be breast aware. Red flags include nipple discharge and any new lumps or masses in the breasts. Proper diet and exercise can help prevent and reduce breast pain.
- Brown, N. et al. (2013). The experience of breast pain (mastalgia) in female runners of the 2012 London Marathon and its effect on exercise behavior. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(4), 283. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092175
- Mason, B.R. , Page, K.A. & Fallon, K. (1999). An analysis of movement and discomfort of the female breast during exercise and the effects of breast support in three cases. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 2(2), 134-144. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10476977
- National Health Service UK. (2014). Breast pain. Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breastpaincyclical/pages/introduction.aspx
- National Health Service UK. (2012). Premenstrual breast changes. Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003153.htm
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2012). Breast pain. Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/breast-pain